Boyfriend Dungeon Review
If I was a weapon, I’d want to be a threaded cane
Available on: Steam/Switch/XboxOne
Genre: Dungeon Crawler + Dating Sim
Publisher: Kitfox Games
I’ve been looking forward to Boyfriend Dungeon for a while now. I often times find myself drawn to dating sims and even more so if it happens to be a hybrid game. So when Boyfriend Dungeon came to my attention, a dungeon crawler where your weapons are shapeshifting people (which also caught my attention) and you can date them, I got interested and looked forward to the release. I even signed up to get update news and love letters from the weapons. So imagine my surprise that it got a surprise release after being showcased in Nintendo’s Indie Showcase.
After making your character, you arrive at Verona Beach so you can spend your summer there, with the help of your cousin Jesse letting you stay at his old apartment as the lease isn’t up until summer ends. However, this isn’t a summer that you can lay back and chill inside or soaking up the rays. Your mother has decided that this would be the perfect time to solve your problem of not dating anyone, not going on any dates, and your confidence problem (which is all true for me irl). Jesse has the solution for both of them: set up dates for you and have you go into dungeons that often appear at Verona Beach. While Jesse’s meddling resulted in some horrible dates, one of which proceeds to be a jerk stalker that doesn’t get the hint that you want nothing to do with him, the dungeon part actually works out. For both of the things Jesse is trying to help out with.
You learn that there are some people (and animals) that can turn into weapons and you are sadly not one of them. But you can wield them. You meet Isaac first, an Estoc, that is happy to show you the ropes. While this is a great way to get some exercise in and make some money, Isaac also explains that these dungeons manifest based on your fears and insecurities, and the monsters there change their shape based on it too. It also seems like there isn’t a set amount of floors as it also depends on how deep your own fears or insecurities run (though both dungeons are both 12 floors). It doesn’t take long for you to meet another weapon, though it’s not in the best circumstances as he mentions that someone abducted him, chipped his blade, and left him in the dungeon. And you’ll meet the other weapons in the same predicament. Good thing that all they need is to have a day outside of the dungeon to rest to heal the damage and that they’re pretty open to letting you wield them and date them.
In terms of the characters and the dating aspect, they’re both fine. The characters are the types where you’d like some of them, rather than liking all or most of them, but they are well written from what we got. I did enjoy the vast majority of the interactions and getting to know them. Past the initial meeting and the dialog you’ll get in dungeons (and the two parties where one weapon will come with you), they don’t interact with each other and you’ll really only interact with them when you rank up their Love Rank which they’ll text you and you can find where they are on the map (which your character can run on to get where they are) to get to their date (or it’s automatic once you reply if it’s happening at your apartment). However, they only have 6 ranks each, which can result in some of them feeling rushed, and you’re more or less pushed into accepting them as your romantic partner each time even if you want to keep them as a friend. This may be due to the game letting you be poly and date all of them at the same time, which none of them really care if you do and don’t tell them, but it is a weird choice considering the game says that it’s fine if you want just a platonic relationship with them.
Though there were some weird choices made. Like Sunder’s whole ending (despite basically being the face for the game), Sawyer feeling and acting so young (which personally made me feel really awkward even though you’re told they’re in college), and Pocket the cat that was apparently supposed to be the aro/ace option rather than just contributing to the lore how animals can be weapons too, which is disappointing for representation.
It is also a bit weird that all of the weapons like you almost immediately and it does try to push you into accepting it as a date and your relationship with them as a romantic one. I feel like it would have felt better if you worked up to the romance for most of them (though for someone like Sunder, it does make sense why he’s extremely flirty right away). Having you getting to know them, and them to know you, and at a certain point(s) get the option to ask them out or have them ask you out when you get to a certain point total. It would have also helped the hangouts feel more like hangouts rather than totally-not-dates. It even seems like there as some kind of points system as your dialog choices will often either result in yellow (friendship?) hearts or red hearts as a reaction, but I don’t think it amounts to much right now (as some people have mentioned that even though you go through a platonic route, the game acts like it was romantic a lot of the time). This may be due to the game being short though, which is also the problem with some characters feeling rushed as all of them needs their arc to be resolved in 6 dates, so it makes this difficult to achieve.
Also not to get into spoilers much, but the ending was a bit rushed, and even lets you do it before you finish the second dungeon (I believe it unlocks either after you find the last weapon or have all of them at a certain Rank). The whole “weapons are being abducted and chipped” isn’t really focused on until it suddenly pops up again. But either way, just make sure you do everything before going into the last boss fight.
Considering that you’re only visiting for the Summer acts as a time limit, there isn’t really a time limit. This is weird when characters mentions it (like “Summer is halfway/almost over!”) and it feels like it was supposed to be a whole thing where you keep track of your days. Though, I did like how there wasn’t really a set time limit as you won’t feel like you’re spending too much time not completing a dungeon and get to know all of the weapons without worrying.
Anyways, onto the dungeon crawling part. There are (sadly) only 2 dungeons here, representing the fear of change and the fear of intimacy, that you can unlock and go to. And when you dive into it, it’s pretty easy to get the hang of it. You’ll choose who you’ll be wielding before going in and all the weapons are handled differently. They excel in different aspects based on their weapon type and have differences in their combos. They all are best or not so great in certain situations, like Isaac isn’t that great when surrounded by a lot of enemies (which happens a lot in the second dungeon), but they all handle pretty well. This is also a first for me where I was fine using any of the weapons and not dreading using one. Granted, I’m more of a person that like weapons (/characters) that are focused on attack fast and not the slow, but powerful, ones. You’ll also be able to dodge, which is best to get the hang of, and you’ll have several drinks (which depends on what you pick as a preference) that will heal you as well as zines that act as another way to hurt enemies or delay them. There are also certain hats that will give you an effect bonus like stunning enemies or having drinks heal more. Though, it does become easy enough to where you can just wear whatever you like best.
Though, if you can, you should probably try to see how it feels with a controller, as there have been complaints about the key bindings for keyboard and mouse players.
Aside from the enemies which appear in most of the rooms (and the slight disappointment that there’s not that much variety), you’ll encounter breakable crates to get money and crafting resources from; vaults that will give you money, higher tier crafting resources, and recipes; and safe rooms where you’ll get to chill, get a quick interaction with the weapon you’re wielding, and healed. Zines and drinks also have a chance of dropping from breakable crates or when enemies die, while drinks have a definite drop when you come across first aid kits (and there’s a chance to get 2 drinks from these). If you find yourself with a full pocket of drinks and zines, it’s best to leave them and remember where they are so you can go back and replace the ones you used. Grabbing a zine without having rooms does nothing, but drinks will automatically heal you.
Once you complete a floor, the weapon you were using gets some EXP for their Love Rank and you can switch it out for someone else before you get to the next floor. As extra EXP doesn’t overflow to the next, it is best to switch them out so that EXP don’t go to waste. You can also gift them something, each they all have gifts they hate, like, or love, to help them rank up, but there are only certain situations that the game will let you. Although, it has to be said that once you max one weapon, you are given an item that gives you double EXP and EXP overflow for the rest (which either was planned or is because it feels like one more dungeon was supposed to be included). When a weapon ranks up, this unlocks a date for the next day and a skill that will help you in battle. So the more you rank them up, the more helpful they are. Like Isaac will get the ability to riposte and charged attacks, Sunder will be able to inflict bleed, and Valeria can inflict Confusion. Some ranks will also have two different variations on the ability that you can choose to reflect how you wield them.
You level up as well, but it’s only when you’re exiting the dungeon. This gives you more health to work with and, I believe, lets you hit harder so if you find yourself not doing a lot of damage when you encounter the tougher variants, you might want to exit so you can level up. Certain floors will have an elevator so you can exit early and let you start the dungeon at that floor (though you might not want to use this to skip floors so you can rank up the weapons and get money early on).
There are various shops around, both on Verona Beach’s map and a secret shop in dungeons, that will sell different outfits for you to wear, crafting resources, and gifts. The crafting resources will let you make the various recipes you acquire. The best outfits and hats you’ll get will be from these recipes, you can only craft the different zines, and a lot of the gifts are from recipes (and aren’t as expensive).
However, this game is missing some content and has the underlying feeling that it could have benefited more by having more time. 2 weapons are not implemented, Leah the hammer and Owen the axe (though Owen does appear briefly), and have already been mentioned that they will be added as DLC along with some additional stuff (though as far as I know, it’s not clear whether it’ll be free or paid for those that aren’t Kickstarter backers). It would be interesting to see how they would be implemented though. Would it be weaved into the main story where it supposed to have been or would it be in a post-game where you’d be visiting for a week or two (or full on moving there)?
I also feel that the dungeons were meant to correspond with one of your weapons and maybe each one was originally intended to have their own dungeon (with one dungeon being a shared dungeon between at least 2 of them to give a twist). You’re told that dungeons are manifestations of your fears and I don’t believe it specifies only the wielders. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that it could combine the fears of a wielder and weapon, or maybe the wielder is one that manifests the dungeon (which is implied pretty heavily) and those around them, especially a weapon they’re close enough to wield, who shares that same fear chips in. Considering that the 2 dungeons we got can easily correspond with the first two weapons you get access to, and Sunder’s story feels like going through the second dungeon would have helped him, it could have been a possibility. Though even if this was dropped early on, it does seem like there should have been at least an additional dungeon.
Oh, and there are two minigames here and both are tied to achievements. There’s a bug racing game which has weird controls before you get used to them, but once you get first place in the easy track, you can easily get first in Normal. With Hard giving you difficulty with catching up to second place let alone keeping first (which you have to be near perfect and make sure you’re first once you’re on the last stretch of straight land). There’s also a packing minigame that is the credits.
While I looked forward to Boyfriend Dungeon for a long time, I did enjoy my time with it and I had fun playing it to where I barely convinced myself to complete it in 2 sittings, but the more I thought about the game, the more I just found disappointing and wanting more of. There’s a lack of dungeons and there’s a lack on the dating sim aspect, so unless you’re someone that didn’t have big expectations and fine with this being more simple than it lets on, it’s going to feel a bit disappointing. I still recommend it, as it still is a fun game to play, but some might want to wait for a sale if they’re looking for more depth with either the dating sim aspect or the dungeon crawling one.